Explore This Procedure

About This Procedure

An echocardiogram creates a clear image of the heart by using high frequency sound waves. Our team can then use these images to accurately diagnose and make clinical decisions. There are several different types of echocardiograms and each presents a different perspective of the heart. At the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center, our team offers several different types of echocardiograms, including transthoracic echocardiograms, transesophageal echocardiograms, dobutamine stress echocardiograms and bicycle stress echocardiograms.

A transthoracic echocardiogram (also called an echo) is a test that uses high frequency sound waves, called ultrasound, to examine and take pictures of your heart. It is a safe and painless procedure that helps doctors diagnose a variety of heart problems. During most echocardiographic procedures an additional test, called Doppler echocardiography, is performed to determine the direction and velocity of blood flow within your heart.

What Does This Test Show?

During the echocardiogram, it is possible for the cardiologist to:

  • Watch the heart’s motion
  • Ascertain if the valves are opening and closing properly
  • Determine the size of the heart chambers and major vessels
  • Measure the thickness of the heart walls

This data can be very important in your physician’s determination of your diagnosis and the need for further tests or treatment.

Preparing for the Transthoracic Echocardiogram

There is no need to restrict food or fluid intake or to alter any medication schedule unless your physician specifically instructs you. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your exam to provide time for registration.

Make sure your insurance information is up to date and bring your Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Record Number (MRN) and a photo ID to your appointment. If you are a new patient, please call the Mass General Registration and Referral Center at 866-211-6588 to obtain an MRN. The center is open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You may also visit the patient registration office on the first floor in the Wang Building or in the Yawkey Center.

If you cannot make your appointment, please inform the echo lab 24 to 48 hours prior to your test day at 617-726-1840 or 617-726-8871.